Sunday, September 26, 2010

What would you do?

What is the charitable thing to do in a difficult situation? Here's the set-up:

There's a family of four--two little girls and Mom and Dad--who've been attending the same Mass as our family (and loads of other families) for about 2 years now. They seem like very nice people. The children are roughly 3 and 5, though they might be a bit older. It is obvious that there is no mental illness nor disability on the part of any member of the family.

The trouble is that the girls chatter like squirrels throughout Mass, and they do so without correction. They ask for (and are given) snacks. They ask for (and are given) paper and pen. They dance on the pew. They balance on the kneeler, as though on a beam, pulling hair and pounding arms of those in front of them.

When a parent does speak with them, it's usually Mom--and she actually speaks to them. At a conversational volume. Regardless of what is happening in regards to the Mass. She does this during the homily, during the readings, during the hymns, and even during the crux of the Mass--the Consecration. Her speaking to her children is never to correct them--just to answer and pacify them. The children are never removed, for any reason. The younger one has cried loudly during Mass before, and nothing was done.

I think this might be one of the families (though I've not seen other families with this type of issue at the Mass we regularly attend, but there are also three other Mass times within our parish) which prompted the message written by our dear Monsignor about six months ago, regarding behavior during Mass, and when it becomes necessary to remove a child from the nave in order to allow other parishioners to worship appropriately.

It is maddening. It is distracting, and it is completely disrespectful of Our Lord during the Mass.

So I ask you--what would you do?

I understand what it's like to wrangle children during Mass. I have five, for Pete's sake, and am not looking to be out of the Narthex Crowd anytime soon!! I know what it is to sit in the narthex as close to the speaker as I can, or where I can watch through the glass panel on the door, knowing that I can hear the Mass just fine from there, and that my small ill-behaved child is out of hearing and sight range of the rest of the people, and that this leaves only me as the distracted one. I definitely know what it's like to have the strong desire to be in the nave, seeing the beauty of the Mass, immersed in the ways in which the Mass stirs our senses, and feel as though I'm not really there at all. In other words, I've been in their shoes--but rather than sit there, I've gotten up and moved my feet!

I am finding it terribly difficult to remain charitable in my heart, especially in those moments during Mass when I am left to strain to hear Monsignor's homily, because the woman behind me refuses to whisper. I found this to be especially so this morning, when this family sat down directly behind our family. Finding another pew at that point was not possible.

So, besides "offer it up"--which, believe me, I have been doing!--what in the world would you do??


Anne said...

I remember those days as well, with little ones who just would not behave and I would take them to the hallway outside of church-there was no loudspeaker or crying room. I'd often wonder why God made it so difficult to follow him, to attend Mass.

I guess I would say besides offering it up, praying for them might do much good, and then maybe trying to develop a friendship with them-you know keep your friends close but your enemies closer-or love your neighbor. Maybe a gentle rebuke from you might help, like letting her know how hard it is, but maybe attending a different Mass than her husband so the little ones can stay home until they can sit still, or offering to help her in some way (no clue how, but maybe you can come up with something).

Good luck with this, I would be terribly irritated as well.

Maggie Moore said...

I'd ask the priest his advice. He might lend some helpful information or even assume the responsibility himself.

Cam said...

My first thought was similar to what you mentioned in your post: "offer it up!" and then what Anne mentioned- "Pray!"

Lately though, with a rather willful two year old (who is just getting past a phase where I spent most of Mass outside trying to peer in the door because you can hear everything in our narthex inside the church, I just think "thank goodness it's not Sadie this time!"

There was one Mass when my husband said he'd "handle" the two-year old (I'd had a c-section the week before) and he refused to take her out even though she screamed... by the time Mass was over I was in tears (I'd been mouthing "take her out!" while he ignored me)... Now that I can lift again, I'm in charge of the two year old and things are much better... ugh... I can definitely feel you on sitting outside though! I'm always surprised when parents don't take rowdy kids out or at least try to get them to sit quietly!